Los Angeles has a strong history of social movements including recent campaigns advocating for livable wages, educational equity, criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, marriage equality, affordable housing, environmental justice and economic empowerment. Also, the November 2016 elections have renewed a spark of activism, mass mobilizations and a significant sense of urgency among social justice advocates to ensure that the many gains won by a generation of movement leaders are not rolled back.
In March 2017, as part of its commitment to equity announced in summer 2016, the Weingart Foundation convened 170 philanthropic colleagues and nonprofit leaders for a day-long discussion on Achieving Equity in Southern California. One of the key action items from that day was the need to develop and strengthen social justice leaders and the movement building infrastructure in our region. Convening participants identified numerous traits of an effective leader including: boldness, courage, diversity, comfort with crossing sectors, willingness to risk reputation, and the capacity to build bridges, link theory to practice, think outside the box, and spark movement—all essential to achieving steady progress toward racial equity and social justice. It would be difficult to find any one individual who inhabits all these traits, so it is imperative for long-term movement building work that a robust network of leaders who collectively possess these qualities be developed, supported and sustained.
Investing in Next Generation Movement Leaders
In response to this call for more philanthropic investment in developing next generation leadership, the Weingart Foundation began convening a group of seasoned movement building leaders and commissioned a study to explore whether existing programs and supports were sufficient to meet the needs of L.A.’s movement leadership pipeline. The research concluded that a more robust leadership-training infrastructure should be developed, not only to sustain the regional pipeline of next-generation leaders, but to also deepen their commitment to the long-term change needed to achieve social justice and racial equity. The research also revealed that a key inflection point in a movement leader’s career is when they transition from day-to-day campaign work to an executive or senior level leadership position involving added responsibilities for managing resources and supervising staff. Seasoned leaders noted that it was at this critical juncture in their early careers where they felt most vulnerable to potential burnout and frustration due to a rather thin layer of support for newly minted movement leaders.
To help strengthen this regional network of next generation leaders, the Weingart Foundation is investing in a pilot of the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program, named after the late civic leader who began his lifelong career as a movement leader through student activism during the civil rights movement. This program will help emerging leaders develop their adaptive leadership skills, hone their leadership stance, improve their ability to develop more effective campaign strategies, and better access resources that support them as leaders of movement building organizations.
Twelve emerging leaders will be selected for the pilot cohort of the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program. The initial cohort will focus on leaders from nonprofits operating primarily in Los Angeles County. The components of the fellowship are:
- Each Fellow will engage in leadership development training, peer learning and coaching support through a series of three overnight retreats, four Learning Days and individualized coaching sessions scheduled over an 18-month period;
- The program will be facilitated by experienced movement builders and Fellows will have the opportunity to co-design portions of the curriculum;
- Each Fellow will also have access to up to 40 hours of professional coaching (valued at more than $6,500) during the program; and
- An Unrestricted Operating Support grant of $25,000 will be awarded to each Fellow’s organization to help compensate it for the Fellow’s time away from the office during program activities and support the organization’s internal leadership development practices.
ELIGIBILITY AND SELECTION CRITERIA
Candidates for the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program must have the following experience:
- Five years of campaign experience in social justice and racial equity issues;
- Currently employed at a nonprofit organization operating in Los Angeles County that is involved in social justice and racial equity campaigns; and
- Placed into a leadership role with supervisory/management responsibilities within the past three years.
During this review and selection process, candidates will be screened on these additional qualities:
- Deep commitment to social justice and racial equity;
- Readiness to commit time to participate in the Fellows program activities and engage in professional/personal/organizational transformation and development;
- Exhibit a spark to connect with others outside their current issue area(s) and participate in a cohort-based, peer learning opportunity;
- Curiosity and desire to constantly learn, innovate, and challenge traditional/current thinking;
- Ability to apply theory to practice; and
- Appreciate space and time to reflect on lessons learned and think proactively about “big” solutions, individually and collectively.